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Introduction to the Sustainable Eating Campaign

"You, as a food buyer, have the distinct privilege of proactively participating in shaping the world your children will inherit." - Joel Salatin

What is the problem?

Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide and methane, occur naturally and are essential for our survival due to their role in maintaining a habitable temperature for us and many other living species on Earth. However, the concentrations of these gases continue to increase to levels that threaten the future of our planet as we currently know it by causing climate change. Human activities such as industrialisation, large scale agriculture and deforestation have been identified as the main causes of climate change. Key features of climate change include a change in weather patterns, namely a warmer climate which also contributes to rising sea levels. Climate change and global warming continue to remain a significant threat to food production and human health, as well as endangering plants and animal species that are unable to adapt to changes in their habitat.

Tackling climate change and its consequences is not impossible and can be done together through small lifestyle changes. One of the ways we all can help to reduce our environmental impact and help fight climate change is by adopting sustainable eating habits.

What is sustainable eating?

Making more environmentally conscious and ethical eating choices is often termed as sustainable eating. Food production accounts for 26% of the world’s global greenhouse gas emissions, which is more than the greenhouse gases produced by the world’s cars, planes and trains combined. Food is also responsible for over 70% of the world’s freshwater consumption (Ritchie & Roser, 2020). Thinking about where and how your food is produced can be helpful in reducing your environmental footprint. For example, this could involve opting for seasonal locally sourced food, eating fruit and vegetables that have been grown outside or in high tech greenhouses, and avoiding buying meat from livestock farmed on deforested land. Global food wastage accounts for around 3.3 billion tonnes of CO2 equivalent of greenhouse gases released per year (FAO, 2013). Reducing our food waste can help to reduce energy usage and greenhouse gas emissions, as well as saving precious water and land resources.

Meat and dairy products are responsible for 14.6% of all human produced greenhouse gas emissions, more than half of the overall food emissions (Stylianou, Guibourg and Briggs, 2019). Cutting down your meat consumption, particularly beef and lamb, can help to lessen your personal environmental footprint. Similarly, reducing consumption of dairy products, especially foods like cheese and cow milk, can also curtail your impact on the environment. Avoiding these foods lessens the consumer-driven demand for water consumption and deforestation in the food industry.

Overfishing, particularly extensive illegal fishing, is a major threat to our oceans. This can have a devastating impact on marine biodiversity. If the oceans’ biological limits are reached then this may never be naturally restored. Almost a third of all fish populations are currently overfished, with nearly 60% being fully fished (FAO, 2018). If the rate of overfishing continues as it is, it is estimated that there will be no fish left in the ocean by 2048 (Worm et al., 2006). Minimising your fish consumption can help to prevent this from happening and allow our oceans to maintain their beauty.

Palm oil is a product found in many foods that we all enjoy including chocolate, doughnuts and pizza. It also can be found in some of our cosmetic products such as deodorant, shampoo, toothpaste and lipstick (WWF, 2020). Unfortunately, extensive tropic deforestation has occurred in countries such as Indonesia and Malaysia in order to accommodate growing palm oil demand worldwide. The UN’s Environment Program has suggested that 98% of Indonesia’s forest may be destroyed by 2022 (RAN, 2018). Tropical deforestation is the cause of around 10% of total global warming emissions (UCS, 2013). Our now-u app can direct you to sign the right petitions to help make sustainably-sourced palm oil a legal requirement.

What can you do to help?

For many of us changing our diets to become more sustainable can be difficult and overwhelming, but our app can help you to be part of the change. Our learning hub can help you to understand more about how our diets affect climate change, and how sustainable eating habits can help. You can sign petitions to manifest change on pesticide and food waste legislation in Europe. You can also find volunteering opportunities and delicious recipes for those of you struggling to come up with some climate-friendly meals.

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Midra Shanthikumar

A 4th year medical student interested in Global Health. Blogger for now-u. Spends most of her spare time on Netflix and studying (not out of choice). Always has a good documentary recommendation. Convinces herself she is a gym girl.

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